By now, we’ve all heard about Anthony Rapp’s allegations of sexual assault by Kevin Spacey when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. Waking up in the middle of the night to the revelation of Rapp’s story and Spacey’s response felt like a punch in the gut because it doesn’t just happen in Hollywood.
As a black queer man who was sexually abused as a child by a man who now identifies as gay, this Spacey public relations stunt of coming out while addressing Rapp’s allegations saddens me in indescribable ways. We’re in an era where someone can tweet an apology for allegedly sexual assaulting a person then try to escape accountability by owning his sexual identity publicly.
On Tuesday, another actor, Roberto Cavazos, accused Spacey of sexual harassment. Cavazos was 26, Spacey 49.
“There are many of us who have a ‘Kevin Spacey story.’ It seems the only requirement was to be a male under the age of 30 for Mr. Spacey to feel free to touch us,” Cavazos wrote in a Facebook post. “It was so common that it became a local joke (of very bad taste).”
Cavazos said that Spacey often “routinely preyed” on young male actors and said he fended off two “unpleasant” advances from Spacey that “bordered on harassment,” but that others were afraid to do so.
Cavazos isn’t the only man who came forward this week. Filmmaker and producer Tony Montana claims Spacey groped him in a Los Angeles bar in 2003. Montana says he was left with post-traumatic stress disorder for at least six months after Spacey “forcefully” grabbed his crotch. Montana was in his 30s when the alleged harassment occurred.
Spacey has yet to respond to the most recent allegations, but his using his sexuality as a shield against Rapp’s allegations is dangerous and destructive. What’s worse, many people will continue to try to draw a connection between pedophilia and homosexuality when most child sexual abusers identify as heterosexual men, not gay men—and many are in consensual relationships with women.
I’ve been an openly queer man of 10 years and nothing brings me more happiness than people who feel safe and affirmed enough to invite people into their personal lives. Personally, I know this feeling and it is complicated. As I wrote in The Atlantic in 2013, “Coming out was both liberating and constricting, for me. It was beautiful although the consequences were occasionally ugly. I am glad I came out.”
This coming out, or inviting in, is not easy, and what makes it worst is someone in the LGBTQ community using his now-public sexual identity as a way of escaping accountability for allegedly committing a heinous act on a person’s autonomy. It didn’t help matters when media outlets like Reuters, People magazine, the New York Daily News and ABC News, among others, chose to focus on Spacey’s coming out.
Spacey’s sexuality has nothing to do with his allegedly molesting someone. As a survivor, this is why it was difficult discussing being sexually assaulted by a man when I was younger. Though I am openly queer now, before going public, the main comment people made once finding out about my assault was, “It has nothing to do with your sexuality.”
Once I understood what was being said, I grew frustrated that the immediate harm being addressed was what the abuse could mean for my actual or perceived sexuality. It made me realize it’s because many people think sexual abuse and sexuality are somehow connected.
It’s completely irresponsible for any person or media to have a conversation about Spacey’s sexuality because it’s salacious. Talk about the ways in which Spacey allegedly molested a teenager when he was an adult and the impact that might have on the child. Discuss how multiple men have now come forward accusing Spacey of unwanted sexual advances, but do not connect this to his sexuality. Spacey has made that wrong connection even worse.
Being assaulted by a man who later acknowledged being gay confused me so much about my own sexuality because I connected my sexuality to being abused. It took years to rework that my sexuality was not borne out of pain. I was not gay because I was abused.
Even though my abuser didn’t “come out” until many years after he assaulted me, Spacey’s response made me relive my entire interactions with my abuser and my own thinking on sexuality and abuse. I was a black boy who was already told that being gay was a problem; imagine adding on top of that the idea that my sexuality was connected to the abuse.
To be clear, Spacey knew exactly what he was doing by “coming out” in response to sexual assault allegations. I’ve never been a fan of the “right time” to come out, but we all know this happened as a way to distract from the real story while simultaneously offering a fake apology for maybe allegedly assaulting a teenager. I’m not allowing that.
I’m also not allowing for folks who don’t seem to understand why people are upset at the convenience of Spacey’s timing. His statement conflates molestation, sexuality and drunkenness in a way that will ultimately harm queer people who are merely attempting to live a free life.
And Spacey’s response also doesn’t leave room for people like Rapp, who will experience lifelong social, emotional and psychological effects from his abuse. I know what it’s like to be Rapp.
So, Rapp, I’m sorry for what happened to you. I’m sorry that a man used his celebrity and emotional prowess to make your assault about his own disconnected sexuality.
It is not right, and you are not wrong.